Mold Allergy, Mycotoxins And Mold Infections
How Do Moulds Affect Our Health?
There are three ways in which mold can affect our health. These include allergy, mycotoxin poisoning and infections.
An allergy is an acquired sensitivity to allergenic particles such as mold spores and pollen. Allergy acquired from a single exposure is specific to one or to closely related species. Multiple exposures may result in multiple sensitivities. Alternaria and Cladosporium are the two most common causes of allergy. Some mold allergies are associated with work environment such as:
- farmer’s lung (thermophilic actinomycetes, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus versicolor, and Eurotium rubrum),
- cheesewasher’s lung (Penicillium casei),
- malt-worker’s lung (Aspergillus clavatus, Aspergillus fumigatus),
- maple-bark stripper’s lung (Cryptostroma corticale),
- sawmill worker’s lung (Rhizopus rhizopodiformis, Penicillium spp., Aspergillus fumigatus, Trichoderma viride),
- mushroom picker’s lung (Pleurotus ostreatus, Pholiota nameko, Aspergillus fumigatus, Doratomyces stemonitis).
Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that some molds produce. These can be introduced into our bodies through inhalation of spores or airborne mycotoxins in dust. However, eating food contaminated with mold is the major route of mycotoxin poisoning. The best known mycotoxins are aflatoxins produced by various species of Aspergillus. Aflatoxins have a history of causing death in animals and humans and also trigger cancer development.
Infections by common indoor molds is unlikely. However, individuals with weak immune system are at risk of being infected by species of Aspergillus (e.g., Aspergillus fumigatus), Fusarium (e.g., Fusarium solani) and other opportunistic pathogens.
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Samson, R A., Reenen-Hoekstra, E S., & Frisvad, J C (2004). Introduction to Food-Borne Fungi. 7th Edition. Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Baarn.